It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is just around the corner! This time of year can evoke a range of emotions from excitement and joy, to dread and anxiety…especially if you are traveling with young children for the holidays. You may feel a lot of pressure to appease the grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who you haven’t seen in a while. Take all of these feelings into consideration, but put your baby’s needs first! No one is going to enjoy being around a cranky baby or toddler, so be sure you are setting your little one up for success by maintaining a routine and protecting their sleep as much as possible so they can stay well-rested and happy throughout the festivities.
One of the most common complaints I get from parents is that their child’s good sleep habits were ruined after returning from travel. Even if you are planning to stay in town for the holidays, there are always a ton of events to attend that can get your little one out of whack. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I’ve put together some survival tips that will help you maintain your child’s healthy sleep habits during this busy season so you can make the most of your holiday visits and maintain the good sleeper you’ve always had!
When planning your holiday visits with a baby, it is important to consider how your plans will affect your child’s sleep routine. You’ll have a much more enjoyable time if you organize your visits and activities in a way that allows for as little disruption as possible to your child’s routine and schedule. This will help ensure she gets the rest she needs to be happy, healthy, and alert during your activities which is bound to make your visits more enjoyable for everyone!
Here are some tips to help ensure your baby gets the sleep he needs during the busy holiday season:
Tip 1: Don’t over-schedule
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is trying to pack in as many events as possible in a short period of time. Keep in mind that your toddler or baby is much more likely to become overstimulated and overwhelmed by too much activity at once. Try to space out your visits with family. Schedule them for different days rather than making multiple stops in one day whenever possible. If you have to be on the go for a whole day, do your best to carve out some time to allow your child to nap. He will be a much happier companion if he gets some daytime rest. That way your entire family will see what a happy little baby you have, rather than just seeing the grumpy side.
If possible, invite family to your house for a visit so your child can nap while the adults visit. Your child will likely be more pleasant in their own environment.
Tip 2: Be consistent with naps and bedtime
An occasional nap in the car seat or a later than usual bedtime probably won’t do too much harm, but if your baby’s naps are all over the place and she goes to bed much later than usual several days in a row, your baby will become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown will be inevitable. It is better to slow down the pace and make sure you schedule regular naps and early bedtimes, just like you would any other time of year.
Tip 3: Be patient with your baby
Even if your baby is the best little sleeper in the world at home, when you are in a strange environment, things might be very different. It is normal for babies and toddlers to test boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new. Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply at Grandma’s house.
In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. The best way to handle this kind of behavior is to react the same way you would at home. Go into the room every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.
Tip 4: Make sure you bring your child’s lovey, blankie or other security object
When your little one is in a crowd of new faces in an unfamiliar environment, you may notice he instantly is uncomfortable. If your child has a treasured comfort item, it will go a long way in helping him feel safe and secure in these uncertain circumstances, and will help him fall asleep in a strange environment. Forget it at your peril!
Tip 5: Be consistent with your boundaries
Another big mistake parents make is to start bending the rules when they are in front of guests. Keep in mind that young children are comforted by consistency, so if they don’t understand what is expected of them all of the time, that can lead to them pushing boundaries and testing their limits, which often results in a major meltdown later on. This is especially true when it comes to your rules around sleep. Bending the rules when it comes to sleeping somewhere new is a very slippery slope. If you are not sharing a bed with your child at home, don’t start while you are traveling. Even if it’s only for a few nights, if your baby decides this is her new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a big problem when you get home and put her back in her crib.
Giving your child his or her own sleeping space is important to maintain their good sleeping skills while traveling. A pack-n-play or portable crib are great alternatives if a full-size crib is not available.
Many parents complain that their child slept great before the holidays or before they went out of town. But, after weeks of busy scheduling and traveling his or her sleep is a total mess. If you can stick to these tips while you’re on the go, your little one will fall right back into their regular sleeping pattern when you get home!
For those of you who are staying home for the holidays, this could be the perfect opportunity to really focus on helping your little one start sleeping well. If you are ready to make a positive change to your little one’s sleeping habits, but aren’t quite sure how, please contact me today! I will develop a customized plan specifically for your child and hold your hand through the process to ensure your child develops the sleep skills needed to finally start getting the quality sleep he or she needs. A good night of sleep for your entire family could be just a few nights away!